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River Valleys
The reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park lead to the river meandering less.

River Valleys

In GCSE Geography, you will spend a lot of time looking at rivers. This is one of several quizzes on rivers and it looks specifically at river valleys and some of their features, such as meanders, waterfalls and oxbow lakes..

Valleys are defined as the low lying areas of land between hills or mountains, normally with a river or some sort of water course running through them. River valleys are commonly V-shaped, narrow and steeper near to the river's source but become U-shaped, wide and flatter as the river works its way down to sea level.

Nearly all major settlements and civilisations are located within river valleys, and for thousands of years we relied on these rivers for transport, defence, waste disposal and power.

River valleys have a series of features that you need to know about for your exam, including meanders, interlocking spurs, levees, waterfalls, rapids and estuaries. Meanders (the movement of the river across the valley floor which forces back the sides of the valley and deposits rich alluvial soils) are one feature in particular that you need to understand.

Depending on the geology, weather systems, ecosystems and human activity the rivers (and so their valleys and river channels) will have vastly different shapes. Lots of things can affect a river valley's features. Amazingly, the reintroduction of wolves into the Yellowstone National Park lead to the river meandering less and carving a deeper and more stable channel. This was due to the wolves changing the grazing behaviour of the deer in the park, and so allowing vegetation to stabilise the banks.

Fan-shaped river deltas arch out into the sea as the river splits into multiple distributaries. Which of the following is the other name for fan shaped deltas?
Bird’s foot
Arcuate deltas are also known as fan shaped deltas and are the shape we most commonly associated with deltas
Billabongs are a famous type of Australian habitat. These form when a meander bend is isolated from the main channel as a new channel is cut across the narrowed neck of a convoluted meander bend. What are these features more commonly known as?
Sink holes
Meander cut offs
River braiding
Oxbow lakes
When a meander bend is cut off an oxbow lake is formed. Gradually these will fill with sediment and dry up
Why is river discharge greater downstream?
Extra water from factories discharges into rivers
Extra water from the sea enters the channel
Extra water from tributary streams, surface runoff, throughflow and baseflow enters the river
Extra water enters the river as the ground water rises up from underground reservoirs
A river's discharge is the volume of water flowing through it. As the river moves down the drainage basin more of the drained water from tributaries, surface and other flows enters the river thus increasing its discharge
Flood plains provide fertile farming land and level sites for industry and settlements. How do flood plains form?
As meanders erode sideways and travel downstream they leave behind a flat wide valley bottom. During a flood event rich fertile alluvial soils are deposited there
As rivers flood they scour out the land either side of the flood plains, leaving behind a flat area for occupation
As people settled on the flood plains they removed the trees, leaving a deforested plain behind. Without the trees to control flooding these plains are subjected to flash floods
As rivers flood they deposit huge amounts of silt, filling up the narrow valley floor, leaving a wide valley bottom as the original valley fills up
Meanders are the key feature in creating that wide valley floor, as they erode the banks on the outside of the meander and deposit sand, silt and organic material on the inside, leaving behind flat fertile land
What is the name of the islands that form in the middle of a braided channel?
Hook and spit
Sand bars
The islands that separate braided channels are called eyots. If these are colonised by pioneer species of plants they will stablise the island and permanaent land may form
At what point on a meander bend does deposition occur?
On the inside of the meander bend
On the outside of a meander bend
At the start of the point where the meander turns
At the point where the meander ends
Deposition occurs when velocity is lowered, such as on the inside of a meander bend
As rivers move laterally across the floor of a flood plain they erode the banks to form sweeping curves. What is the term for these curves in the river channel?
Ox-bow lakes
Braided channels
Meandering means wandering aimlessly or following a winding course
Gorges, also known as canyons, are deep ravines. One of the most famous is the Grand Canyon in Arizona, with an average depth of 1 mile. Which of these is not a way these gorges commonly form?
Waterfalls create deep plunge pools and as they retreat upstream they leave behind steep sided gorges
Rivers in arid regions erode vertically with little rain fall to erode the sides
Geological uplift and other geological processes form gorges
Glacial valleys are flooded due to rising sea levels
Glacial valleys are commonly U-shaped valleys, rather than the V-shaped steep sided gorges. Flooded glacial valleys are called fjords
What is the name given to the point where two rivers meet?
When rivers meet the point where they flow together is the confluence. Where two river valleys may also meet they can form a wide flood plain
What is a braided channel?
When two or more rivers meet or divide
When the main channel splits into smaller sub-channels
When meanders are cut off as the neck narrows
When the channel twists across the valley floor
Braided channels form when a river with a large sediment load changes discharge regularly, forming sub channels and islands in the middle of the river
You can find more about this topic by visiting BBC Bitesize - River environments

Author:  Ruth M

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